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Giordano Bruno

GIORDANO BRUNO, born in 1548, died February 17, 1600, is perhaps the best-known philosopher of the Italian Renaissance. Ordained a Dominican priest in 1575, he was accused of heresy and in 1576 left his order. After some travel and further study, he taught (1580-81) theology at Toulouse. Soon he found favor with Henry III, who in 1583 sent him to England, where he taught at Oxford. Following sojourns in Marburg, Wittenberg, Prague, and Frankfurt, he went back to Venice, where in 1592 he was imprisoned by the Inquisition. Refusing to recant, he was burned as a heretic. Bruno's philosophy owed much to such diverse sources as Thomas Aquinas, Averroes, Copernicus, John Scotus Erigena, Marsilio Ficino, Nicholas of Cusa, and the Hermetic literature. In his De umbris idearum (On Shadows of Ideas), Bruno pictured nature in all its multiplicity descending from divine unity to matter and darkness. At once, he distinguished God from the world and yet tended toward a completely contrary pantheism. His insistence on divine immanence, linked with a doctrine of panpsychism (belief that reality is constituted by the mind), anticipated both Gottfried Leibniz and Baruch Spinoza. He rejected the geocentric and anthropocentric universe, believing that the Earth and human individuals are ultimately accidents of a single living world-substance.--JOHN P. DOYLE

Bibliography: Michel, P. H., The Cosmology of Giordano Bruno, trans. by R. Maddison (1973); Yates, Frances, Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition (1969; repr. 1979).

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